by Asha Nayaswami
What are your hopes and dreams for your teen? Not just for high school, but for the whole of his or her life?
Financial security? A good job? A nice home?
Material goals are self-evidently necessary and worthwhile. But, surely, many intangibles are also worth considering, such as happiness and peace of mind.
We all want our children to acquire an awareness of positive, inspiring values and ideals, as well as a deep understanding of the ultimate meaning of life. No influence outside the home has a greater impact on young people than the countless hours they spend at school.
Education Reflects Parents’ Goals
Nowadays, little attention is paid to developing higher values. But what if your dreams for your son or daughter extend beyond the material?
Intellectual training is essential – it’s difficult in our culture to succeed without it. But life teaches us that success and happiness depend to a great extent also on human skills such as knowing how to get along with others, how to persevere, how to focus our attention, how to cooperate, and how to be a good friend.
At Living Wisdom High School, we feel that teens should benefit from the storehouse of wisdom that humanity has gathered through the ages regarding the understanding and skills needed to achieve a happy, fulfilled life. We feel it is our higher duty to teach young people these essential life skills, beginning at a young age.
For more than forty-five years, we have found that students who are taught how to be happy are far more likely to achieve academic success.
At Living Wisdom High School, our students learn how to be balanced, mature, effective, happy, and harmonious human beings. We call our philosophy Education for Life, because it relates young people’s classroom lessons to their lives as a whole. At Living Wisdom High School, we study not only the great things people have achieved, but the human qualities that enabled them to attain those achievements.
The Secrets of Success
Before we can be happy and secure, we must know a great deal about the world around us. We need to learn how to interact appropriately with the people and circumstances in our lives, because life will seldom mold itself to our personal expectations.
We must be ready to adjust to realities outside our own. We must learn practical skills, and we must master academic knowledge. Education for Life helps students prepare for maturity on all levels–material, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
More Than Natural Talent
At Living Wisdom High School, the teachers cultivate a constant focus on guiding the individual person in developing the five universal human “tools of maturity”: body, feelings, will, mind, and soul. With health and high energy, sensitive feeling, dynamic will, and mental clarity, young people are able to expand their awareness and find a deep sense of meaning and joy.
In our school, we gauge each student’s success not only by their test results, but by the quality of their attitudes, effort, and interactions with others.
The Best Teaching is Highly Individual
Young people reveal a much broader array of individual traits than adults generally do. Instead of forcing them to conform to the rigid mold of a standardized curriculum, we feel it makes more sense to discover their own unique strengths and help them build on those positive qualities. In our schools we challenge each child to perform at the peak of their individual abilities, giving them daily experiences of overcoming personal challenges that develop their self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning. Encouraging their strengths releases a positive flow of energy and enthusiasm that carries over to help them overcome any academic or personal weaknesses.
Our classes are deliberately kept small so that the teachers can develop a close relationship with the individual. The teachers are trained to assess the individual student’s physical, mental, and emotional development, and to guide them accordingly. They relate to them much as their parents do, recognizing and helping to meet their ever-changing unique needs.
Joy in the Classroom
We feel it is our responsibility to help make each teen’s school years a joyful experience, while laying a strong foundation for success and happiness throughout their school years and beyond. In a Living Wisdom classroom, the atmosphere is happy, relaxed, and family-like, while at the same time there is order, appropriate discipline, and a clear sense that the teacher is in charge.
The teachers win the students’ respect by skillfully awakening their enthusiasm and energy for the tasks at hand. The students learn that they are expected to behave with consideration and respect for others, and that they can confidently approach the teacher for individual guidance.
A positive learning environment doesn’t automatically transform young people into angels. In our school, you will find the same issues, interactions, and challenging transitions as in other schools. What’s different is that the students are given the tools and the opportunities to deal with these challenges in highly effective, enlightened ways.
The Inner Life
At Living Wisdom High School, each student’s natural spirituality is acknowledged and encouraged. Spirituality isn’t defined as a system of narrow dogmas. The focus is on the student’s own experience of universal spiritual truths. We set aside time for meditation, yoga postures, and other uplifting activities. Teens can experience for themselves what it feels like to be in harmony with a higher level of consciousness.
Students discover that expansive feelings, thoughts, and actions increase their sense of well-being, whereas contractive attitudes and actions take their happiness away. “Right and wrong” become firsthand experiences of the spiritual consequences of personal behaviors, rather than a set of abstract rules. They become deeply interested in changing their behavior when they realize that it’s an effective way to increase their own sense of happiness.
The Importance of Good Teachers
Living examples can inspire us far more effectively than rules or books can. A teacher who loves and deeply understands his or her subject is more likely to awaken a similar love and commitment in the students. Living Wisdom High School is built around the teachers’ open-hearted sensitivity to the students in their charge. We consider it absolutely essential that each teacher express through his or her life and personal demeanor the positive attitudes and spiritual and moral values and maturity that we seek to impart to the students.
Our teachers participate in Education for Life as a lifelong process. Each teacher is deeply involved in personal development, and the teachers receive ongoing support and training to keep them fresh, enthusiastic, and expansive.
Asha Nayaswami is one of the founders of the Living Wisdom School in Palo Alto. She is a noted speaker and author, and her online classes are a spiritual lifeline for people of many faiths around the world. Thousands of students have received training from her over the past 40 years, and have been immeasurably helped by her unusual insight and clarity. With warmth and wisdom, Asha helps us see how spiritual teaching can be woven into daily, ordinary life. Her teachings are non-sectarian — sharing the truths that unite the great religions. Asha is a lifelong disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and studied for more than 45 years with Yogananda’s direct disciple, Swami Kriyananda, founder of the Education for Life educational approach.